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NDI president says broad consensus on electoral system is needed

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, February 28
President of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Derek Mitchell, who was on his first visit to Georgia on February 24-26, stated that with the upcoming parliamentary elections in October, Georgia “has a chance to reaffirm its position as a democratic leader” in the region. According to Mitchell, Western friends of Georgia, including the NDI, will be watching the election process carefully and will continue to support Georgian democracy in 2020 and 2021.

In a statement released on February 26, Mitchell said NDI will remain committed to supporting Georgian democracy during this critical year, and for years to come, and that Georgia’s friends in the West, including NDI, will be closely following electoral preparations.

NDI’s president spoke of the importance of the public’s confidence in the electoral process. According to him, to achieve this, timely and broad consensus must be reached on the electoral reform. Mitchell also wrote about protecting the rights of candidates and parties to participate in elections without fear of political persecution. He mentioned non-governmental organizations’ right to work, gather and express their opinion; need to promote safe and equal participation of women in political processes and “to avoid political polarization that threatens national unity and reinforces the influence of external non-liberal forces.”

Mitchell’s visit comes 3 months after Bidzina Ivanishvili, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party criticized NDI and International Republican Institute (IRI) in his interview with Imedi TV on November 27 where Ivanishvili said that “the reputation of the U.S. founded institutions, such as NDI and IRI” is “being devalued” by the public opinion polls they publish. NDI officials in Georgia are often criticized by Georgian Dream officials.

Interestingly, Mitchell met with Ivanishvili in Georgia. According to the GD Press Center, political parties and the pre-election environment were discussed at the meeting held at the party's central office.

On February 23, Mitchell met with the new US Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan. According to the embassy, the meeting was held "to discuss the political and pre-election environment of Georgia." The diplomatic mission notes that the US government is proud to work with NDI.

During the three-day visit, Mitchell met with the President, Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker, parliamentarians, the ruling party, and various opposition party leaders, as well as civil society leaders, mayors and city council members, CEC chairperson, women politicians, young leaders, and diplomats. The main topic of the meetings was the pre-election environment.

Since 1994, NDI has been working with parliament, political parties, councils, central and local government representatives and civil society groups in Georgia to promote democracy, security, and prosperity in Georgia. NDI also conducts public opinion surveys in Georgia regularly to provide decision-makers and activists with credible information on citizens' views and priorities. NDI surveys and focus groups are conducted in consultation with government officials and parties.

The main goal of the NDI in Georgia is to promote transparent, accountable and inclusive democratic processes and not to achieve any concrete election results.